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I&B Ministry suspends broadcast of Kerala based news channels Asianet News and MediaOne for 48 hours for biased coverage of Delhi riots

The order alleged that the two Malayalam News channels have indulged in biased coverage of the Delhi riots and took side one community

Two Kerala based Malayalam News channels, namely Asianet News and MediaOne had been rewarded with 48-hour token ban by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for their shoddy ‘coverage of the Delhi riot’.

Both these channels have been displaying a black screen since 7.30 pm on March 6 (Friday), when they were taken off-air. Both channels will resume the broadcast only at 7.30 pm on March 8 (Sunday) after completion of the 48-hour ban.

The order alleged that the two Malayalam News channels have indulged in biased coverage of the Delhi riots, being critical of the RSS and Delhi police and siding with a particular community, showing those who supported Citizenship Amendment Act in poor light.

It alleged that this kind of provocative coverage could further incite communal violence.

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Govt suspends broadcast

“It appeared that telecast of reports on North-East Delhi violence had been shown in a manner which highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community. Channel’s reporting on Delhi violence seems to be biased as it is deliberately focusing on the vandalism of CAA supporters. It also questions RSS and alleges Delhi Police inaction. Channel seems to be critical towards Delhi Police and RSS,” the order said in relation to MediaOne. 

The Ministry has further alleged that MediaOne accused the Delhi Police of remaining inactive during the violence, and the channel also blamed police for vandalising shops and fruit carts.

“The channel also reported that violence took place mostly in Muslim dominated area of Chand Bagh, Delhi. While telecasting the news, the channel carried the news of stone-pelting, arson and injured people being taken to hospital,” the order says.

This kind of loose reporting could have ‘incited violence and posed danger to the maintenance of law and order situation, particularly when the situation is already highly volatile and charged up and riots are taking place in the area’, the order read.

Where Asianet News is concerned, its report by their journalist PR Sunil on the violence in Jaffrabad and about Delhi police being mute spectators led to this temporary ban.

Whereas for Media One, it is their bulletin carrying on a phone-in conversation with its Delhi correspondent, Hassanul Banna, reporting about the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors being injured while Delhi police refusing to visit the spot and nab the rioters that led to the ban.

The order further read that Asianet News reported about how rioters blocked commuters and attacked them for their religion, attacking houses of Muslims in Hindu majority areas and rioters firing at each other with slogans of Jai Sri Ram and Azadi in the air.

The News channel also reported about shops, houses and vehicles being burnt and no action being taken as the violence continued for the third day, with the Central Government not acting to control the riots.

This report, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry order said, had been shown in a manner that highlighted the attack on places of worship and siding towards a particular community. It said the reporter alleged that central troops had not arrived on time and that he had witnessed the attacks on Muslims. The reporter had also said that rioters had asked which religion he belonged to. “While reporting such critical incidents, the channel (Asianet News TV) should have taken utmost care and should have reported it in a balanced way. Such reporting could enhance the communal disharmony across the country when the situation is highly volatile,” the order said.

Sunil’s story had in fact gone viral in Kerala and he had been lauded for his report that showed what happened through the day on February 25.
Both channels have been taken off air citing two rules under the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994:
  • Rule 6(1 c)- says that no programme should be carried which contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes.
  • Rule 6(1 e)- says that no programme should be carried which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes.

The I&B ministry had imposed a similar token 24-hour ban on NDTV in 2016 their coverage of Pathankot terrorist attack. The penalty of taking the channel off-air for one full day came after the IMC noted with “grave concern” that the channel had “revealed sensitive details like the location of ammunition depot and the place where terrorists were held up, location of the school and residential areas”.

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